Last Friday, the Brooklyn International Film Festival opened with a delightful film by Lawrence Michael Levine and Sophia Takal, called Gabi on the Roof in July. It’s the story of a 20-year-old art student named Gabi who leaves college for the summer to stay with her older brother in New York City. During her visit, Gabi’s academic idealism and stubborn refusal to conform clash with the mundane necessities of getting a job and paying the rent. Throughout the film, lies are told, conversations are misunderstood, and cell phones die as the characters strain to communicate with each other — a theme Levine is deeply invested in.
“For me, that’s the only issue I really care about,” said Levine over the phone, who directed, co-wrote, and acted in the film. “As human beings we have this clumsy device of language, and I think it keeps us apart more than it pulls us together. The struggle of life is to find connection, anyway.” We asked Levine to name five indie films that have influenced his method of filmmaking; check them out below, and catch the next screening of Gabi on the Roof in July at 8pm on June 12 at indieScreen in Brooklyn.
1. Shadows: directed by John Cassavetes
“Shadows was the first Cassavetes film I watched and I had a powerful response to its energetic verisimilitude and sensitivity. Unlike a number of other films I’d seen about the beat generation, Shadows seemed less like a celebration of beatnik culture than a nuanced examination of hipster posturing. I was so curious about the film that I read everything I could about it and discovered the work of Ray Carney, the world’s leading Cassavetes scholar. From Carney’s work, I learned that Cassavetes had developed the script for Shadows through a series of rehearsals which he created around the actors who were available to him. From that time on, I was fascinated by the notion of of doing movies “backwards” — creating the script around the actors as opposed to casting the actors around the script. This is the method I used to create Gabi on the Roof in July.”